Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOCHANAN HAKKADOSH: NOTE, by ROBERT BROWNING



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JOCHANAN HAKKADOSH: NOTE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Moses the meek was thirty cubits high
Last Line: "keeps falling, nor has reached the bottom yet."
Subject(s): Moses


I

MOSES the Meek was thirty cubits high,
The staff he strode with -- thirty cubits long;
And when he leapt, so muscular and strong
Was Moses that his leaping neared the sky
By thirty cubits more: we learn thereby
He reached full ninety cubits -- am I wrong? --
When, in a fight slurred o'er by sacred song,
With staff outstretched he took a leap to try
The just dimensions of the giant Og.
And yet he barely touched -- this marvel lacked
Posterity to crown earth's catalogue
Of marvels -- barely touched -- to be exact --
The giant's ankle-bone, remained a frog
That fain would match an ox in stature: fact!

II

And this same fact has met with unbelief!
How saith a certain traveller? "Young, I chanced
To come upon an object -- if thou canst,
Guess me its name and nature! 'T was, in brief,
White, hard, round, hollow, of such length, in chief,
-- And this is what especially enhanced
My wonder -- that it seemed, as I advanced,
Never to end. Bind up within thy sheaf
Of marvels, this -- Posterity! I walked
From end to end, -- four hours walked I, who go
A goodly pace, -- and found -- I have not balked
Thine expectation, Stranger? Ay or No? --
'T was but Og's thighbone, all the while, I stalked
Alongside of: respect to Moses, though!

III

Og's thighbone -- if ye deem its measure strange,
Myself can witness to much length of shank
Even in birds. Upon a water's bank
Once halting, I was minded to exchange
Noon heat for cool. Quoth I, "On many a grange
I have seen storks perch -- legs both long and lank:
Yon stork's must touch the bottom of this tank,
Since on its top doth wet no plume derange
Of the smooth breast. I'll bathe there!" "Do not so!"
Warned me a voice from heaven. "A man let drop
His axe into that shallow rivulet --
As thou accountest -- seventy years ago:
It fell and fell and still without a stop
Keeps falling, nor has reached the bottom yet."





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